This year’s Sunoco 240 Challenge remains wide open following two more action packed Mini Challenge and Radical Challenge weekends at Oulton Park and Snetterton.
Rick Parfitt Jnr remains in pole position to win a fully paid-for entry into the Rolex 24 At Daytona’s 240-mile support race this January after seeing his advantage slightly increase over Jessica Hawkins. They’re two of six drivers representing five different categories who retain realistic hopes of lifting this year’s crown as the 2017 campaign heads into its final few rounds.
The Mini Festival at Oulton Park, staged over the weekend of August 18/19, offered Cooper class championship protagonists Hawkins and Matt Hammond another opportunity to reduce their respective 240 deficits.
Hawkins went into the event as Parfitt Jnr’s nearest rival and maintained that status despite slipping a further 0.45 points adrift after ‘only’ managing a victory and second place. She’s now four points behind with two Cooper rounds remaining, but – crucially – can still score a higher theoretical maximum than her British GT3 Am adversary.
Meanwhile, a tough weekend by Hammond’s usual high standards resulted in him losing five points and dropping from fourth to sixth in the 240 standings. A fastest lap, pole position and podium limited the damage, but his chances now appear to be over.
Elsewhere, JCW championship leader Brett Smith also lost ground after a win-less outing at Oulton. He’s now 8.37 points off the lead with just one JCW round remaining.
The Mini contingent’s issues have helped Jacopo Sebastiani climb two places to fourth, and the Italian will have a further opportunity to improve both his position and average score when F3 Cup’s season continues at Brands Hatch on September 8-10.
Sebastiani will be joined on the Brands bill by Oliver Barker whose two Radical Challenge victories, fastest lap and pole position at Snetterton last weekend have given him an outside chance of pinching the 240 crown. Although currently 10th overall and 24.45 points behind Parfitt Jnr, perfect performances at the remaining two rounds would yield enough marks to earn a potentially winning 92-point average score.
While F3 Cup and Radical Challenge compete together at Brands Hatch in a fortnight’s time, it won’t be until the following weekend at Donington Park that Alasdair McCaig becomes the first of this year’s front-runners to set a definitive benchmark. Currently eighth on 82.27, the newly-crowned Henderson Insurance Brokers LMP3 Cup champion could put pressure on the rest with a double victory before Parfitt Jnr and Jon Minshaw go head-to-head for the British GT title – and provisional 240 top-spot – at the same venue one week later.
They’ll be joined at Donington by Smith who will be eager to wrap up the Mini Challenge JCW crown and stake his claim for the 240 prize drive before the likes of Hawkins and Sebastiani compete for the final time this season on October 27-29.
With no Sunoco Whelen Challenge-eligible championships in action over the past fortnight the standings and scenarios remain as they were following LMP3 Cup’s penultimate round at Snetterton.
Currently third, Colin Noble Jnr has a chance to become ‘clubhouse leader’ when LMP3 Cup visits Donington on September 16/17, one week before his four British GT4 Pro rivals – including current Sunoco Whelen Challenge leader Stuart Middleton – visit the same venue one week later.
Upcoming Sunoco Challenge-eligible events:
Sep 01-03 Silverstone – Radical European Masters
Donington Park – Britcar Endurance Championship
Sep 08-10 Silverstone – Radical Challenge & F3 Cup
Sep 15-17 Donington Park – Mini Challenge Cooper, GT Cup, LMP3 Cup
Sep 22-24 Donington Park – British GT & Mini Challenge JCW